[Note 3: Lebrija praised Martyr’s verses, declaring him to be the best poet amongst the Italians in Spain. One of his poems, Pluto Furens, was dedicated to Alexander VI., whom he cordially detested and whose election to the papal chair he deplored. Unfortunately none of his poems has been preserved.]
After a period of partial oblivion, Alexander von Humboldt, in the early years of the nineteenth century, rediscovered the neglected merits of our author and, by his enlightened criticism and commentaries, restored to his writings the consideration they had originally enjoyed. Ratified by Prescott, Humboldt’s judgment has been confirmed by all subsequent historians.
No further claim is made for this present translation of the Decades than fidelity and lucidity. Its purpose is to render more easily accessible to English readers, unfamiliar with the original Latin, the earliest historical work on the New World.
EDITIONS OF PETER MARTYR’S WORKS
P. Martyris Angli [sic] mediolanensis opera. Legatio Babylonica, Oceani Decas, Poemata, Epigrammata. Cum privilegio. Impressum Hispali cum summa diligentia per Jacobum Corumberger Alemanum, anno millesimo quingentessimo XI, mense vero Aprili, in fol.
This Gothic edition contains only the First Decade.
Two Italian books compiled from the writings of Peter Martyr antedate the above edition of 1511. Angelo Trevisan, secretary to the Venetian ambassador in Spain, forwarded to Domenico Malipiero certain material which he admitted having obtained from a personal friend of Columbus, who went as envoy to the Sultan of Egypt. The reference to Peter Martyr is sufficiently clear. The work of Trevisan appeared in 1504 under the title, Libretto di tutta la navigazione del re di Spagna de le isole et terreni novamente trovati. Published by Albertino Vercellese da Lisbona. Three years later, in 1507, a compilation containing parts of this same work was printed at Vicenza by Fracanzio, at Milan by Arcangelo Madrignano in 1508, and at Basle and Paris by Simon Gryneo. The volume was entitled Paesi novamente ritrovati et Novo Mondo, etc. Peter Martyr attributed the piracy to Aloisio da Cadamosto, whom he consequently scathingly denounces in the seventh book of the Second Decade.
In the year 1516 the first edition of the Decades, De rebus oceanis et Orbe Novo Decades tres, etc., was printed at Alcala de Henares under the supervision of Peter Martyr’s friend, the eminent Latinist, Antonio de Nebrija, who even took care to polish the author’s Latin where the composition fell short of his own exacting standard. Cura et diligentia Antonii Nebrissensis fuerent hae tres protonotari Petri Martyris decades impressas in contubernio Arnaldi Guillelmi in illustri oppido Carpetanae provinciae, compluto quod vulgariter dicitur Alcala. Factum est nonis Novembris, anno 1516 in fol. The appearance of this edition had the character of a veritable literary event and the success of the work was immediate and widespread. The narrative covered a period of somewhat more than twenty years, beginning with the first expedition of Columbus.